Police in Bahrain beat children arrested over taking part in anti-government protests last month and threatened them with rape and electric shocks, according to the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) and a report released by Human Rights Watch (HRW) today.
The children aged between 11 and 17 were also deprived of their parents or lawyers being present during their interrogations. The report also claims that judges "unnecessarily" ordered their detention.
I have also received unconfirmed reports from local activists that a further 4 children and 18 adults have been detained, in what appears to be a round-up aimed at deterring protests during 10th anniversary of #Bahrain's #14Feb2011 #ArabSpring uprisinghttps://t.co/8rxNRWRyB4 2/
— Sayed Ahmed AlWadaei (@SAlwadaei) February 12, 2021
Four children remain in detention and are being tried as adults, including a 16-year-old with a serious medical condition and who is due to face a court hearing tomorrow.
"A police officer who threatens a 13-year-old with rape or electric shocks from a car battery is an abominable stain on Bahrain's reputation," said Sayed Ahmed Al-Wadaei, advocacy director at BIRD:
Bahraini police officers treated children as enemies who must be terrorized into confessing, while prosecutors and judges shut parents and lawyers out of proceedings.
Last month BIRD revealed that a Bahraini judge ordered the detention of two 13-year-olds for seven days following interrogation by the public prosecution in connection to the government's crackdown as activists marked the 10th anniversary of the Bahraini Uprising on 14 February. Both children faced up to 20 years in prison over arson charges in connection to protests in their home village of Abu Qua last year. In some of the cases, children were arrested for allegedly burning bicycle tyres or blocking a road. Police also accused children of planting a fake bomb and throwing Molotov cocktails.
However, BIRD stated that Bahrain's police and judiciary are notorious for refusing to grant detainees access to legal representation and claim that the children may have been intimidated into providing coerced confessions.
"These abuses by Bahrain's criminal justice system are the latest entry in a long record of harming children to send a repressive message," said Bill Van Esveld, associate children's rights director at HRW.
"The UK, US, and other governments should ensure that their security support to Bahrain is not being used to torture and humiliate kids."
Inspired by events in Tunisia and Egypt during the Arab Spring, the largely peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations ten years ago by the mostly Shia protestors against the ruling Sunni Al-Khalifa family were short-lived after military intervention from neighbouring Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The brutal crackdown leftover 100 Bahrainis dead and thousands arrested, today there are no opposition parties, having since been dissolved by the Bahraini authorities.